OCTOBER 29 UPDATE: Gaza’s children seek return to some semblance of normalcy

Oct 29, 2014
Palestinian children sit on the rubble of their house that was destroyed during Israel's 50-day offensive on Gaza.

Ramallah, October 29, 2014—Two months after an open-ended ceasefire entered into force, children of Gaza continue to face challenges as conditions included in the agreement have yet to be implemented.

Educators in the Gaza Strip scrambled to start the school year on September 14, three weeks later than expected, due to damage caused by Israeli attacks to Gaza’s education infrastructure. Israel’s 50-day military offensive completely destroyed 26 schools and damaged an additional 228 throughout the Gaza Strip. At the start of the school year, another 31 schools were sheltering displaced residents who lost their homes in Israeli attacks.

A Palestinian father carries his wounded son as they wait for permission to cross into Egypt at the Rafah border on August 28.

Attending school brings some semblance of normalcy for nearly half a million school-age children that experienced the Israeli military offensive in July and August. Temporary psychosocial support has been made available to children able to return to school, particularly children that have lost parents and other family members during the offensive.

According to the UN, 501 children were killed in Gaza during the 50-day offensive. DCI-Palestine has independently verified a total number of 389 child deaths in Gaza as a result of Israeli military attacks.

A displaced Palestinian girl receives treatment at the Kamal Odwan hospital in Beit Lahia on July 31.

Reconstruction of the Gaza Strip after Israel’s seven-week offensive will cost $7.8 billion, according to the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction. Estimates suggest that it may take at least 20 years before housing in Gaza is rebuilt, assuming that construction materials are allowed into Gaza by Israeli authorities controlling the border crossings. 

A Palestinian boy walks amid the rubble of destroyed buildings on July 27 in the Shuja'iyya residential district of Gaza City.

On the night of July 18, the Al-Smairi family was unable to evacuate their home due to heavy bombing and shelling in the Al-Qarara neighborhood of Khan Younis. The home was struck by Israeli artillery and Abdullah Jamal Al-Smairi, 17, lost part of his foot in the attack. Ambulances and medics were denied access to the area, and the family eventually evacuated the house on foot. Abdullah continued to bleed profusely and died during the escape. His father carried his body for about 200 meters (656 feet) before being forced to leave him on the side of the road to save the rest of the family as they came under heavy fire. Abdullah’s body was recovered the following afternoon once ambulances were finally permitted to enter.

A Palestinian boy carries a mattress he recovered from his family's damaged apartment in Gaza City on July 22.

An additional three deaths were confirmed resulting from the devastating massacre witnessed in the Shuja’iyya neighborhood of Gaza City on July 20. Early that Sunday morning, two Israeli F16 bombs targeted the Al-Hayyeh family home as they slept inside. The attack killed the mother, father, and their three young children – Hamzi, 5, Omama, 9, and Khalil, 7. Parts of the bodies of Hamzi and Omama were recovered on the same day as the attack. But due to the heavy bombardment of Shuja’iyya, Khalil’s body was not recovered until six days later.

A Palestinian boy holds a food ration card in his hand as he stands at a UN school in Gaza City on August 10.

On July 21, in the Bani Suheila neighborhood of Khan Younis, 14-year-old Fadi Sami Baraka sustained head and chest injuries when an Israeli drone plane targeted the minaret of Khalil Al Rahman Mosque in the evening. Fadi was distributing dates to members of the village at the mosque to help break their fast. He was eventually evacuated to the El Arish Hospital in Egypt on July 23 but was pronounced dead on July 26.

A member of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society carries an injured child at a hospital in Rafah, in southern Gaza, on July 17.

On July 23, the Al-Smairi family house in Al-Qarara, Khan Younis, was again targeted by three artillery shells. Haitham Ahmad Al-Smairi, 12, was struck and killed by an Israeli drone missile while fleeing to his aunt’s house about 150 meters (492 feet) away. His decomposed body was recovered eleven days later, once Israeli forces granted access to the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

Israeli forces raided the house of Zaki Wahdan in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, and arrested seven members of his family on July 18. The remaining eight members of the family, including three children, were trapped in the house for a week. The morning of July 26, Beit Hanoun was destroyed by Israeli airstrikes. Only parts of the bodies from the eight people who were forced to remain in the house have so far been recovered. This includes the bodies of two-year-old Ghena Younis Saqeer, 9-year-old Hussein Hatem Zaki Wahdan, and 13-year-old Ahmad Hatem Zaki Wahdan. 

Displaced Palestinian children play at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City where they have taken refuge on July 31.

Four children were killed by an Israeli drone attack on July 27 in Nusseiret refugee camp, near Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza. The drone plane fired a missile that landed in front of the Al-Darazeen house. In the stairwell of the house were three children – Mohammad Anwar Al-Darazeen, 3, Abdulkarim Anwar Al-Darazeen, 4, and their cousin, Nour Mohammad Abu Dabbagh, 12. Ahmad Ramzi Mohammad Abu Qadus, 12, was walking by at the time of the strike. All four children were killed and four people were injured, including Nehad Anwar, 9, and Asma, 8.

A Palestinian child, wounded in an Israeli strike, receives treatment at Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahia on July 30.

On July 29, Israeli airstrikes killed another four children in Khan Younis, including four-month-old Muna Jihad Al-Najjar. Early in the morning, an Israeli F16 bomb targeted the home of Ibrahim Hasan Al-Najjar, killing his granddaughter Muna and both her parents. Minutes later another Israeli airstrike targeted a three-story family house in Khan Younis, killing two-year-old Mohammad ‘Ata Mohammad, his three year-old brother, Rafeef, and 14 year-old aunt, Sama’.

On the same day in the Sabra neighborhood in western Gaza, nine Israeli artillery shells targeted a four-story house with 60 people inside. One shell penetrated the house through the kitchen and landed in the living room, instantly killing the grandmother and setting the home on fire. Two year-old Nada Ezzo Fayeq Al-Ja’il and her five-year-old sister, Nour, were severely burned and rushed to the hospital. Nada succumbed to her wounds the same day while Nour died the following morning. Their two-year-old sister, Dua’a, four year-old brother, Belal, and one-year-old cousin, Mohammad, also sustained severe burns and injuries. 

A Palestinian man holds his daughters, Shada and Lama al-Ejla, as he leaves al-Shifa hospital on July 18 in Gaza City.

Two children were killed on August 1, in Abasan Al-Jadida, a village in Khan Younis, while trying to flee an attack on the house where their family had taken shelter. There were around 70 people in the house, mostly children. A drone missile struck the gate at the end of the large front yard and another exploded in the house across the street. The families decided to flee the house in groups. Raneen Ali Abdullah Al-Qarra, 14, and her seven-year-old cousin, Maysoon, were approaching the gate at the end of the yard when a third missile was fired, killing them both.

Two other children in Khan Younis were also killed on the same day on their way to a mosque near their homes. As they were walking, two artillery shells forced a family to rush out of their house. A few minutes later, the two children were struck by another shell when they stopped to help the family fleeing the attack. Fifteen-year-old Omar Shaker Rashad was killed instantly. His neighbor, sixteen-year-old Fadi Nasser al-Qawasmeh, was seriously injured and died at the hospital 20 minutes later.

A Palestinian boy rides his bicycle past a damaged building following an Israeli air strike on July 17 in Gaza City.

On August 4, two Israeli drone-fired missiles targeted a house with 30 people inside in Beit Hanoun. One of the missiles landed in the yard, killing Jamila Wahdan and injuring her four-year-old daughter, Nour Al-Huda. Nour succumbed to her wounds the following day. Fifteen other people, mostly children, were also injured in that attack.

On August 5, fourteen-year-old Khaled Zeyed Said Al-Hendi died at the European Hospital after succumbing to injuries to his head, leg and arm sustained on July 29 in Khan Younis. He was escaping an Israeli airstrike on the house across from his when an Israeli F16 missile struck the area.

A family arrives at an UNRWA School in Gaza City after fleeing their home in Beit Lahia. (DCIP/Eloise Bollack)

Mahmoud Mohammed Saleh Abu Hdaf, 8, and his cousin, Mahmoud Khaled Musa, 15, were returning from a relative’s house where they retrieved some sweet fresh water on August 8 in Al-Qarrara neighborhood of Khan Younis. They stopped to chat with their other cousin, Suleiman, 21, on the side of the road when the three were targeted by two drone-fired missiles. Mahmoud Mohammed was killed instantly after his body was torn to pieces, whereas Mahmoud Khaled and Suleiman died while they were being evacuated to the hospital.

On August 20, Israeli planes bombed the Al-Lawh family home in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza. The strike killed eight people, including three children: Farah, 6, Mustafa, 9, and Miassar, 8.

Six children died when an Israeli missile struck a residential building in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis on Tuesday.

Also on August 20, two-year-old Nour Mahmoud Abdulbaset Abu Haseira was killed in Zeitoun, located in the southern part of Gaza City, while returning from the supermarket with her sister Lama. As they were walking away an Israeli drone fired two missiles at a group of people near the market, killing Nour instantly and injuring Lama in the lungs and liver.

Three-year-old Ahmad Tareq Al-Rifi and his brothers, Abdullah, 5, and Omar, 9, were killed on August 21 when two Israeli drone-fired missiles targeted the al-Rifi family on their way to their land on Al-Nafaq Street in Gaza City. Other young members of the family also sustained injuries, including Maram, 8, her brother, Zyed, 9, and their cousin, Mohammad, 9. They are being cared for in the ICU of Shifa Hospital.

Also on August 21, thirteen-year-old Hasan Srour Mohammad Tambura and his father were killed in the Al-Atatra neighborhood in Beit Lahiya, while carrying buckets filled with cheese to sell at the local market. They were waiting on the side of the road near their home when they were targeted by an Israeli drone-fired missile that killed them instantly.

Four siblings were killed by an Israeli drone-fired missile while playing in their yard on August 24 in Tal Al-Za’tar, a neighborhood in the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza. Members of the Judah family were sitting in front of their home when the drone strike killed Osama, 6, Mohammad, 7, Raghad, 12, Tasneem, 14, and their mother. Their brother, Thaer, also sustained injuries that required his right leg to be amputated. He is at Shifa Hospital waiting to be transferred abroad.

On August 25, the Tambura family had just returned to their house in Al-Atatra in Beit Lahiya when an Israeli F16 missile targeted their home. The family had spent thirty days in a shelter due to the heavy bombardment in their area. The strike killed Amina, 13, Ahmed, 15, and their father. Their mother and sister, Marwa, 8, also sustained injuries from the strike. 

Only five minutes before the ceasefire came into effect on August 26, a drone-fired missile killed two teenage brothers in Abasan Al-Jadida, a town in Khan Younis. Omar Husam Ahmad Al-Braim, 16, and his younger brother, Mohammad, 13, were returning from their family’s poultry farm when they were killed. Omar spoke with his father by phone and was instructed not to leave the farm before the ceasefire began at 7:00 pm. As they both waited near the farm, a drone-fired missile targeted and killed the brothers instantly.

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